Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Power of Ritual

I've been thinking more about ritual and the importance it has in our lives. I know that often, the Catholic church is criticized by some for being too "ritualized" and the inevitable verdict: boring. I well remember when I was younger, how I craved action, "something different" and the Wow Factor.

I am also pondering how often I'd shake my head when I saw that in many places, only "old people" went to the Catholic Church. I'd watch them in their pews, heads bowed as they silently prayed, and assumed they were only there because they knew their life was slowly coming to an end and they needed the inactivity of a boring, predictable service.

I suppose it goes without saying I am revisiting those conclusive thoughts. I realize more than ever that ritual does have a place in our lives. It stabilizes us. It places stakes in the ground so that our tents can hold strong against the winds. Ritual serves as a framework from which our faith can hang, like a fine piece of tapestry, properly presented to enrich our lives.

One of the things I've been surprised about was how quickly ritual has grounded me in my faith again. I know some people (even some Catholics) make light of saying the Rosary. But reciting those prayers over and over again as I meditate upon the Mysteries does something profound in both my mind and heart. It centers me on God. It reminds me of what was done and how what was done affects my life today.

These type of rituals are very basic. When I was in a non-denominational church, we had no ritual. Nothing was "basic" because New was the key word of the day. No matter how something was done the year before, it needed to be "different" this year. Everything always had to change because... because... I mean, really. Why does some things need to change, anyway?

Maybe I'm sounding like one of those old people, but I don't like change just for change. I can appreciate improving something but I've wondered how much of this "change" is actually productive? Is it effective change or is it a fad? Fads have come and gone within the church but one thing remains standing - the Word of God. This may be why so many people love the Bible. It emphasizes God's unchanging nature, His faithfulness to His people through thick and thin and His promise to us for our future.

The Roman Catholic Church has her stability, too. No matter how many have tried to attack her or minimize her existence, she continues to sail on. It gives me a great deal of delight to know that the Mass I'm celebrating was what Joan of Arc celebrated. There is ritual that has been passed throughout the ages to the Catholic Church and it holds us all together.

When I was in my twenties, I loved the "freedom" I felt from a non-denominational church. I loved feeling untethered to any central church government because at that time, I thought government meant control. Now I see things differently. A church government keeps things on track for the good of the people. Yes, there are corrupt officials, but there are also good ones. It is a microcosm of human nature. The rain falls upon both the good and the evil in the world and God still blesses sinners.

He has given us ritual for a reason. I am so thankful He did.

1 comment:

Angela M. said...

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